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02/11/2009

Good Jobs, Green Jobs

Last week I was part of the Sierra Club delegation -- we were 250 strong -- to the second annual Good Jobs Green Jobs conference sponsored by the Blue Green Alliance. The timing and location -- the first week of February in Washington, D.C. -- were perfect, since at the time the Senate was wrestling with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which they since passed, and which will soon go to President Obama to sign. (The bill includes an almost $100 billion investment in green jobs, energy efficiency, wind and solar power, high energy performance low carbon cars and buildings, mass transit, and a modernized water and transportation infrastructure.)

Dr. Donald Kennedy was announced as the chair of the Sierra Club's Climate Recovery Partnership, and helped open the conference. A renowned scientist and former Stanford University president and Science Magazine editor-in-chief, he can speak firsthand about the growing body of evidence for the global climate change crisis. His remark, "Science is back!" was met with resounding approval.

We came together as a coalition -- including labor, environmental, community, businesses and academia -- to shape the national dialog about building a clean energy economy. On Wednesday, I joined the Virginia delegation for a "Day of Advocacy," in which about 35 coalition groups took to Capitol Hill to educate lawmakers on the green economy, and emphasize that environmental and economic stability go hand in hand.

Between the opening session and Day of Advocacy event I rushed over to Upper Senate Park to join our labor allies and speak at a Rally for the Employee Free Choice Act. I was running a little late and did not have a minute to spare. As I exited the Union Station metro and paused to get my bearings, I could immediately hear which direction the park was located. Rallies are not exactly quiet events! Thousands of people -- union workers and supporters from the coalition, including hundreds of Sierra Club members -- gathered to stand up for the most basic right enjoyed by workers, the right to organize.

The morning the conference closed, we learned that another half million jobs were lost in January. Everyone left the conference determined to fight for green jobs, which must be good jobs.

Recent Sierra Club Successes in Puerto Rico and Texas

I want to share two notable Club accomplishments. First, the Puerto Rico Chapter celebrated its fourth anniversary and its 1,000th member at its Annual Assembly in late January. Created in 2005 as the Club's first Spanish-speaking chapter, Sierra Club de Puerto Rico was a key player in gaining protection for the island's Northeast Ecological Corridor, nesting ground for the endangered leatherback sea turtle. Those are chapter leaders gathered at the assembly below, and Outing leader Evalexa Tomei staffing a booth. You can read more in Scrapbook.

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[photos by F. Claudio]

Then, last week, a seven-year Club campaign ended in victory when the American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO) announced it was permanently closing and demolishing its copper smelter in El Paso, Texas. Sierra Club Environmental Justice organizer Mariana Chew spearheaded bi-national grassroots efforts like the 2007 "Faces Against ASARCO" rally, where more than 1,000 Mexican and American residents gathered to stand united against plans to reopen the polluting facility. That's her below, speaking at the state capitol in Austin. There's more in Scrapbook.

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I want to close by inviting you to join me for an "open house" conference call on March 10 at 8 p.m. Eastern, where I'll talk briefly about the Club's challenges and opportunities and take questions from callers. You can find out more here.

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David Scott

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